The American heavy metal band Alcatrazz was formed in Los Angeles in 1983 by vocalist Graham Bonnet, (Rainbow) bassist Gary Shea,(New England) and keyboardist Jimmy Waldo, (New England). The band was first meant to feature ex-Nazareth guitarist Zal Cleminson and ex-Jethro Tull drummer Barriemore Barlow, but they both had commitments in Europe and pulled out at the last moment. Instead the group found Yngwie Malmsteen through their manager Andy Truman, who had heard about the young Swedish guitarist from a friend at Ozz Records. Guitarist Laurence Juber (Wings) had been auditioned, but was not right for the groups vision. Shea named the group Alcatrazz and Bonnet coined the phrase "Thinking Man`s Heavy Metal"
A number of drummers were brought in including Ayensly Dunbar (Journey), Bill Lordan (Robin Trower), and Clive Burr (Iron Maiden). Jan Uvena (Alice Cooper) was eventually chosen as the groups new drummer. A recording deal was secured with Rocshire/M.C.A. Records and Dennis Mackay (Jeff Beck, Al DiMeola) was brought in to produce.
With the release of their debut album "No Parole", The band played a 40 city tour across North America with Ted Nugent. While headlining in Japan Alcatrazz recorded a live album "Live Sentence", with both albums going gold.
By this time a rift was developing between Bonnet and Malmsteen. Bonnet was unhappy about Malmsteen`s rising popularity. The others in the band were not keen on Malmsteens constant soloing while playing live. A decision was made to find a new guitarist for the band`s upcoming second album.
At this time Alcatrazz entered into a new recording contract with Capitol Records. Ex Frank Zappa guitarist Steve Vai was brought into the fold. Vai had just completed his solo lp "Flexible" and was looking to play music with a harder edge. Producer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix) was brought onboard and a second tour of Japan was undertaken with Kramer recording sound for the group`s live D.V.D. This gave the band a chance to play new material with a new guitarist, before hitting the studio. Back in Los Angeles 'Disturbing The Peace" was recorded at Cherokee Studios.
The band was very exited about their new direction, but problems with manager Andy Truman emerged. This got in the way of the new album`s release and promotion. Eventually a tour of the Southwest was undertaken but the album was lost. At this time David Lee Roth offered Vai to be the guitarist in his new solo band. Also unhappy working with Bonnet, Vai took an offer he couldn`t refuse.
Alcatrazz entered into new management with Wendy Dio, wife of Ronnie James Dio. The Niji Management camp suggested Danny Johnson (Rick Derringer, Rod Stewart) as a new guitarist. Johnson was hired and the group recorded their third lp "Dangerous Games". Capitol Records, just off their success with Heart, offered the band some outside material which Bonnet flatly refused, souring the Capitol relationship. With the release of the album, the band again toured North America, but problems with Bonnet`s difficulty to work with and lack of direction, Alcatrazz disbanded in 1987.
Gary Shea and Jan Uvena went on to record with Swedish guitarist Jonas Hansson, while Waldo became a member of Quiet Riot.
Jimmy Waldo and Graham Bonnet recorded under the name Blackthorne, with guitarist Bob Kulick.
"The Best of Alcatrazz" was released in 1998 on Renaissance Records.
Graham Bonnett, Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai, continue to tour as solo artists.
Gary Shea and Jimmy Waldo are currently recording and touring with New England. Gary Shea has a new cd released with friends Dh Cooper, Herman Rarebell and Peter French, under the name Cooper-Shea
Jan Uvena records with his band Earth Colony and Danny Johnson has been a member of Steppenwolf for the past decade.
A new Best Of Alcatrazz is about to be released in England.
Graham Bonnet - vocals
Jimmy Waldo - Keyboards
Joe Stump - Guitar (Reign Of Terror, Holy Hell)
Beth Ami Heavenstone - Bass
Mark Benquechea - Drums